For many families, their dog is their "first baby". It's normal to worry about things like jealousy, wondering how your dog is going to feel, and being scared about how your dog is going to physically react.
Dogs thrive off of routine and consistency, and it's known that once a baby comes into play, their whole lives are going the change the same way people's lives change!
Although this time can be daunting, I want to ensure that there are so many things you can do to help, before AND after the baby comes.
The biggest key to having a successful introduction is to plan ahead!
Preparation is such a huge part of success. Too many times I see owners say "Oh, I know they're going to be good, they love kids!" or "Let's just wait and see what happens."
The reality of the situation is that you really never know how your dog is going to react. I've seen the sweetest dogs develop anxiety and fear once their new brother or sister arrives, but I've also seen the most reactive dogs transition swimmingly. You really just never know - so preparation is the best way to stay ahead of the game and keep your chances of success high.
Some tips on how to best prepare for this change
Dogs thrive off of routine and knowing what their day looks like. Of course, once a baby is here, their routine may be off. It's a good idea to try to keep something constant in their routine to the best of your abilities. Maybe It's making sure they get a walk, they get fed at the same time, etc.
A behavior tune-up before your newest arrive is something I ALWAYS recommend! Not just for the pup, but for the parents too!
Training can be overwhelming, so making sure everyone in the house is brushed up on their training skills can make a massive difference in this transition.
- Noises, Toys, Strollers, Etc.
Before your baby comes home, bring home a blanket or an article of clothing that carries their scent. Allow your dog to sniff and investigate it, associating the smell with positive experiences like praise, treats, and playtime. This will help your dog become familiar with the baby's scent, making the initial meeting less overwhelming.
Same goes for strollers, loud toys, etc! It's always a good idea to do this ahead of time, just in case you realize your pup is spooked by something he's going to see every day, like a stroller. If this is the case, you can work on training before the baby even gets home!
- Choose your Team.
A great idea for feeling prepared is talking with friends and family and recruiting them to help with your dog! There will be so much focus on the baby when they arrive, so talking with your neighbor to make sure they have a key to your house to feed and walk your dog is a good idea to stay prepared, just in case you have to bail out to the hospital last minute!
In addition, staying in contact with a trainer can be a massive help, too. Just in case there's a sudden change in behavior that gets thrown your way, having a contact on speed dial who can help can give clients peace of mind that they don't have to hunt down a behaviorist last minute!
Your Baby is Here! What Now?
The day you've been waiting for is here! So many emotions and chaos can arise, so having your plan in place helps things run so much more smoothly.
When it's time for the big introduction, take things slow and steady. Allow your dog to approach the baby in a calm and controlled environment. Initially, keep your dog on a leash and maintain a safe distance!
Reward your dog for calm behavior and gradually decrease the separation between them. Observe their reactions closely, ensuring that both baby and dog feel comfortable throughout the process.
I always recommend to never leave your baby and dog alone, especially in the early stages. Like mentioned earlier, even the sweetest dogs can become stressed in an instant!
Baby gates, everywhere! This helps assist with the separation process so much more than you think, so you can simply give your pup something to do on the other side of the gate in a pinch if you need to set the baby down.
Patience is key, as over time, your dog and baby will hopefully develop a bond that cannot be broken, so start slow, and you will see the progress!
Introducing your baby to your furry friend can be a heartwarming experience that lays the foundation for a beautiful bond between them. By following these tips, you can create a harmonious and loving environment where your dog and baby can grow up together, creating memories that will last a lifetime.
Remember, patience, positivity, and plenty of belly rubs are the keys to success. Happy parenting and pet parenting!
Disclaimer: Always consult with professionals, such as dog trainers or behaviorists, if you have specific concerns or if your dog displays any concerning behavior throughout the process of introductions.